“The advice changed, the threat level changed and, as a consequence, we took the only responsible course of action possible.”
New Zealand Cricket chief executive David White said that given the advice they had received, “there was no way” the New Zealand team could have stayed on in Pakistan. NZC had made the decision to abandon the tour of Pakistan – which comprised three ODIs and five T20Is – minutes before the first match on Friday in Rawalpindi citing security concerns.
New Zealand’s touring party have now reached Dubai, after leaving Islamabad on a charter flight on Saturday. The contingent of 34 players and support staff will undergo a 24-hour period of self-isolation in their Dubai hotel. Of this group, 24 will return to New Zealand over the next week, as flights and MIQ (Managed Isolation Quarantine) rooms in New Zealand become available. The rest of the touring party will remain in the UAE and link up with New Zealand’s T20 World Cup squad, ahead of that tournament which is set to begin on October 17.
“We appreciate this has been a terribly difficult time for the PCB and wish to pass on our sincere thanks to chief executive Wasim Khan and his team for their professionalism and care,” White said in a statement.
“What I can say is that we were advised this was a specific and credible threat against the team,” White added. “We had several conversations with New Zealand government officials before making the decision and it was after informing the PCB of our position that we understand a telephone discussion was conducted between the respective Prime Ministers. Unfortunately, given the advice we’d received, there was no way we could stay in the country.”
White said that while New Zealand were initially comfortable with the decision to play in Pakistan – their first tour of the country in 18 years – based on comprehensive assessments of the security situation, “everything changed on Friday”.
“We went through security checks and we were ensured of the high level of security that was to be provided,” White said. “And also of the opinion of the number of teams that have toured here recently – South Africa a few months ago, West Indies, Zimbabwe.. so we made the decision to tour there. On Friday it all changed.
“The advice changed, the threat level changed and, as a consequence, we took the only responsible course of action possible. I’m comfortable with the decision we made.”
White also said that they hadn’t discussed the prospect of touring the country again in the future.
“For every tour we go on we go, whether it’s Pakistan, England or wherever we go through a very thorough process covering security etc. and this was no exception. In fact, probably more in this case. We will assess every tour on its merits. The future tours programme is pretty tight but we’ll have to look at it and work through that.”
ESPNcricinfo earlier reported that the decision had led to mounting frustration within the Pakistan board, as well as fears of how it could impact their calendar this season and beyond. In the heat of the moment, PCB chairman Ramiz Raja even tweeted that New Zealand will hear from the PCB at the ICC. The abandonment of the tour had also led to widespread anger among fans in Pakistan.
White said that the relationship between the boards will be worked through over the next few weeks.
“For many years we’ve had a close relationship with Pakistan cricket,” White said. “We’ll work through this over the next few weeks and months.
“They’re a passionate cricketing nation and I understand that. But on the advice we’ve received from the government which that we had a specific credible threat to the safety of the team. The safety was paramount. We had no choice but to abandon the tour.”
On the day of the first ODI, neither team left their hotel on the morning of the game, and spectators were not allowed to enter the stadium. Following a period of uncertainty, as details regarding the cause of the delay were awaited, an NZC statement was issued, saying New Zealand would not continue with the tour following an “escalation in the New Zealand Government threat levels for Pakistan, and advice from NZC security advisors on the ground”.
The PCB later expressed that it had been left in a state of “shock and disbelief” by New Zealand’s abrupt abandonment. ESPNcricinfo understands that the PCB pondered their options, ranging from a protest to opening up a legal dispute with the ICC, but didn’t have solid grounds to build a legal case against New Zealand.